In the midst of Vietnam warfare, Tim O'Brien describes, in great detail, the items that his comrades brought on their missions; in other words, "The Things They Carried." The Alpha Company's soldiers may have carried , but even after the war's cessation, they continued to bare heavy emotional burdens that would remain with them for the rest of their lives.
GA_googleFillSlotWithSize(HELAD_publishercode, "ArticleATFMiddleArticle300x250", 300, 250);
Symbolism runs rampant throughout the book, and although colors and objects are used in conjunction with the representation of certain characters, these figures; however, serve as O'Brian's primary vehicles for symbolic representation of profound themes of the novel, including physical and emotional burdens, psychological effects of war, and even the exploration of how history is warped through the transmission of oral stories via storytelling.
One of the most prominent symbols in The Things They Carried is the character of Kathleen, O'Brien's daughter. Kathleen's age and relation to the "storyteller" effect the way that he relates or conveys events that actually occurred, often leading to inaccurate descriptions and warped perceptions by Kathleen, who, like the reader, is hearing the story from her father for the first time. Not only does Kathleen change her father's perspective on age-appropriate themes in storytelling, she is also able to respond to his "falsities." Unfortunately, the ten year old is unable to truly understand neither the significance of her father's experiences nor the lifelong psychological effects the war had on him.
Yet another symbolic figure is that of the dead young Vietnamese soldier that O'Brien recurrently sees in visions, nightmares, and hallucinations. Haunted by an intense moment of battle which involved O'Brien throwing a grenade to kill a soldier, for years after the war, the uncertainty over whether or not he had ultimately killed the man plagued him. This recurrent vision is symbolic of the emotional burden of guilt and its psychological effects, which, however intangible, seem very palpable to the person who is undergoing the experience.
In closing, The Things They Carried is saturated with and valuable symbolism, but overall, these two representative characters play significant roles in the ultimate cohesion and success of the novels as they effectively and subtly convey the author's beliefs to the reader.
Learn more about this author, .
Click here to send this author comments or questions.